Mill Valley squeaks past LHS
For all but about five seconds of the Lansing High girls soccer team's Monday night showdown with Mill Valley, LHS goalkeeper Katie Nietzke delivered a performance of superhero proportions.
Time after time, the 5-foot-5 sophomore made diving saves, pushed opponents' shots off the post or charged out of the box and gobbled up the ball a split-second before a shot could be unleashed.
It was the one shot she couldn't quite reach - the one that would've required her to have wings, a cape or some Inspector Gadget-like elastic arms to catch - that decided the game.
Mill Valley sophomore Breana Hoener's free kick from 20 yards out cleared a wall of Lansing defenders, clipped Nietzke's fingertips and dipped just below the crossbar. That goal in the 69th minute was the only offense the Jaguars needed to beat the Lions 1-0 at Lansing Middle School.
"The girl who scored their goal, we worry about her when she takes free kicks," LHS coach Rob Elkins said. "She knows how to put them right where she put them. She had a couple earlier attempts that Katie was able to get a fingertip on it and it went off the crossbar."
Nietzke snagged 18 saves Monday, and none of them came easily. Mill Valley's forwards were quick and aggressive, and they made her work for everything. In fact, the Jaguars had three goals taken off the board because of offsides penalties.
Nietzke never had been a goalkeeper before high school, but she was converted to goalie early in her freshman campaign. Elkins praised her for her continued development.
"She's shown that she's become more aggressive and knows when she can come out and get a ball," Elkins said. "As a freshman, a lot of times she would wait for the ball to come to her. Now she goes to it and shows a lot of confidence. She's making the right decisions right now."
Elkins said his squad didn't play a particularly good first half while Mill Valley dominated. For the most part, the roles were reversed in the second half. Lansing created numerous chances but was unable to capitalize. Mill Valley simply took advantage of its opportunity with the free kick.
"They're playing better than they played when we played them in the first game of the season," Elkins said, referencing his squad's 3-2 victory on March 28. "But we played them better than we played them in the first game of the season."
The Lions were dealt a major blow with 12.1 seconds left in the game when junior midfielder and team captain Bianca Manago went down after re-aggravating a hip injury.
"Her hip has been hurting her most of the season, and that's what she took the hit on," Elkins said. "She's played through pain, and she's played fairly well. She wouldn't be playing out there if a doctor hadn't given us clearances."
Lansing (4-3-1) will play host to Piper at 6 p.m. today at Lansing Middle School.